A flaw in liquor consents: An owner of many properties can stop or coerce new businesses

whiskeyGetting consents from surrounding property owners for a liquor license is fine, city officials say, but it is being abused.

The council neighborhoods and public safety committee today approved and advanced a reform.

It would limit any one owner of large numbers of parcels in the surrounding consent area to no more than 10 percent of the vote.

Jim Ready, manager of Regulated Industries Division, said that there have been too many cases of one owner of much property – an owner that could be a competitor to the business requesting the license – shutting down licenses or imposing crippling restrictions in order to agree to them.

David Epstein, an owner of Tom’s Town Distillery, 1701 Main St., said that to get a license he had to agree to sell only one red wine, one white wine, one beer and to close at 12:30 a.m.

Meanwhile competitors sell what they want and close at 1:30 or 3, he said. “We are simply asking for equality of what people can do.”

Ready said businesses agree to such coercion because it is better for them than not getting any liquor license.

Two business owners in the West Bottoms said they have the same problem because of one major property owner and competitor.

Councilwoman Heather Hall, a promoter of small business, said, “It pains me to hear we are working against what we’re trying to work for.”

Councilwoman Jolie Justus, a sponsor of the change, said she has gotten repeated complaints about such problems in her 4th district.

The change goes before the city council Thursday for final passage.

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